by Ghassan Karam
The fall of the USSR and the official establishment of the Russian federation in 1991 was a major turning point in the political make up of what was known as the Soviet Union and all its European and Asian satellites. The rise of Boris Yeltsin to power of a free, and independent Russia that has renounced 70 years of Communism effectively marked the end of the Cold War. The occasion was welcomed by most people all over the globe if for nothing else but for the potential peace dividend that it carried and for the apparent freedom and liberty that it had bestowed on the people of Russia as well as all the Soviet satellites from Kazakhstan to Latvia, Georgia, the Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, the unification of Germany… Yet some people on the extreme left blamed the Russian citizens and the residents of each of the satellites for wanting a better life. They blamed them for their uprising and for throwing the yoke of their exploiters and corrupt politicians who deprived the citizenry of its rights but made sure to bestow all kinds of privileges upon themselves. Many leftist party members in the West argued that the citizens of the ex Soviet Union should have never demanded what is rightfully theirs but should have allowed the oligarchs and their security forces to go on abusing them for personal gain. Obviously that line of thinking is laughable as any visitor to any of the liberated countries can document.
Move forward twenty years and in particular to the uprising that started in Syria over 5 months ago and you run against the same tired, self serving, hackneyed and superficial logic. Many of the Syrian regimes supporters know better than to make a straight forward argument in favour of a brutal dictatorship and so they twist themselves into unwieldy shapes trying to argue that the regime is needed because without it then Syria would degenerate into sectarian warfare. Obviously none of those that advance this line of thinking would provide any shred of evidence why such an outcome is inevitable. We are also told that Bashar Assad the scion of the cruel dictatorship that has been ruling under an emergency law and through a single political party rule for over 40 years need more time to introduce the legitimate reforms that the unarmed civilian protestors are calling for. Isn’t almost half a century long enough to come up with a package of reforms? And if it is true that the current regime is intent on reforms then isn’t it a coincidence that this matter became apparent only when its monopoly on power was challenged. Is it rational then to question the sincerity of such reform proposals while the tanks are demolishing neighborhoods and the prisons are full of political detainees? It is very clear that all of these are nothing else but excuses for those that are happy with the status quo of no elections, one party rule and promotion of Soviet style personal celebrity rule.
This unfortunate use of inverted logic is not left only for the domestic supporters of the dictatorship. Similar logic has been used by Egyptian thinkers as well as Lebanese writers. The most glaring such example, however, is that taken by Hezbollah. Sayed Hassan Nasrallah has stated the position of his party clearly one more time in his latest speech on the occasion of the International Day of Jerusalem. He, as expected, lavished nothing but praise on the Syrian regime but was sure to justify that by highlighting the steadfastness of the Syrian government against Israel. His premise is that the single most important issue in the Arab society is the position against Israel and in favour of the Resistance movements and since the Syrian Baath has supported Hezbollah, Hamas and PFLP-GC then any movement by the people against this regime is suspect and must be defeated. The very clear weakness of the above, even for those that share the believe in the preeminence of the Arab-Israeli position is the fact that Mr. Nasrallah assumes that the replacement government will not take the same position against Israel. He makes that assumption and asks the listeners to accept it on faith. That is purely an exercise in tautological thinking. The other weakness in this strange logic is the assumption that Mr. Nasrallah knows best what is good for the Syrian people. They do not have a say in self determination. Could that kind of thinking be influenced by the principles of Welayat Al Faqih?
As if all of the above is not enough, many of the same groups that are defending the Syrian killing machine are applying the same logic to downplay the tremendous accomplishments of the Libyan revolutionaries that have spared no cost to free themselves from the dictates of the mad man Qadaffi. Obviously it would be unacceptable to defend such a mad person and his entourage directly and so it has become common for this group to apply its strange logic by claiming, that the courageous and brave Libyan people were manipulated by foreign powers. That is simply just as grotesque of an insult to the intelligence of the Libyan as the above thinking was an insult to the intelligence of the Syrian people.
What is especially pernicious about the above illogic is that its promoters were very highly critical of the doctrine of “preemptive strikes” as articulated by George W Bush. That principle allowed the US to take action/wage war based on suspicion that an act was being planned, no proof was necessary. That is identical to what supporters of the Syrian regime are claiming, deprive civilians of their rights, use ruthless force to put them down only because you suspect that they will propose a policy that you disagree with, no proof needed and their rights be damned even if they chose to enact such a policy. What imperious hubris.
Why cannot we accept the simple fact that the Soviet masses as well as the Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, Yemeni and Syrian have risen against their exploiters because they have had enough. They prefer to live in dignity rather than be used and mistreated by oligarchs bent on accumulating personal wealth and power?
The days of the Syrian dictatorship, like all other dictatorships, are numbered irrespective of its disingenuous efforts to save itself.